The great skanklet debacle 

skanklet-300x181I did so much enjoy watching the Sewing Bee this year, that was until the final episode. So I’m going to stick my neck out a bit and tell you what I think.

Just to be clear, Matt is, by all accounts, a super chap and he is the one who went home with the gong so fair play to him.  But is he Britain’s best amateur sewer? Errrr… no.

All three contestants made an absolute dog’s dinner of the final garment.  Not one of them was either well constructed or sophisticated enough to give you sewing envy, let alone have the catwalk wow that Heather Jack‘s did in 2014.  Neil’s was just too complex to complete in the time; Lorna’s lacked finesse; and Matt’s was simply a repeat of the corset challenge with a poorly executed lampshade attached to the bottom.  images

So backwards to the alteration challenge.  Lorna’s was simple but reasonably well sewn; Matt just added a bit of stiffening to the hem to do something, though not entirely sure what; and Neil made the skanklet. 

Ah yes, the skanklet. It was after all, avantgarde week, so surely we were looking for out of the box solutions.  I’m not sure what side of the bed Patrick got out of on that morning, but it clearly wasn’t the right one. In previous week’s he would have chuckled, admired the chutzpah of the maker and then commented that it was well sewn. Surely ‘wearable’ means you could go out in it without it falling apart, so it fitted the brief.  And you could imagine Lady Gaga strutting her stuff in one (there’s an idea) . It certainly didn’t deserve the vitriol poured upon it, nor was it a final losing garment. Backwards again to that fabulous Japanese asymmetric top. Good on the boys for helping Lorna out (unlike poor Chinelo last year who struggled with the tie pattern challenge). Once again the only person who executed it well was Neil.

Screen-Shot-2014-02-28-at-4.35.21-PMLast year there was a hue and cry that Chinelo Bally didn’t win, but there was a clear reason for that because she was amazing at free form cutting and beautiful fitting jersey garments but bumbled along the bottom in the pattern challenge, so the title went to someone who was consistently good and then pulled a rabbit out of the hat.

Matt on the other hand, although he improved consistently, never rose above good into great or exceptional. Producing the least worst garment in the final challenge does not make you the best overall.

I suppose the biggest proof of who really is Britain’s best amateur sewer is who you would ask to sew an item of clothing for a special occasion to make you look a million dollars. And we all know who we would choose…

Cat x


Three dimensional stitchery

I love the Great British Sewing Bee, not least because it inspires me to do stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily try (or buy sewing equipment that I really need!).

I haven’t done much three dimensional or constructive sewing, other than felt animals of various sorts at school or the now famous Bob the reindeer. I have seen letter cushions before and liked the idea of them so I thought I would give it a bash.

The choice of letter was really easy as it was for a present so I set about creating a pattern with the help of a well known Sunday newspaper. Getting the proportions right was surprisingly difficult. Either the uprights were too skinny or the distance between them too large or the crossbar too thin. I can understand now why font design is such an art form because there is a lot to be considered.

Having finally reached a size I was happy with I cut out the front and back, taking a great deal of care to ensure that I got the stripes in the right place and parallel. I then attached premade bias binding around the whole perimeter of each. As a scientific exercise (probably not the best thing to do on a gift!) I sewed one binding on by my old method of using a zipper foot, and one using my fancy pants new binding foot. Unquestionably the latter produced the much better result, and it was considerably easier to use.

Deciding on the width of the joining piece of fabric also required significant thought. Once again it was important to get the proportions correct. And also to decide whether the stripe should go vertically or horizontally. My biggest mistake though was that I sewed it on all in one piece rather than creating sections which matched each junction on the letter. This meant that although I sewed it all on pretty accurately and neatly, when the two sides were joined together there was a twist in the final product.

All that said, I’m pretty pleased with it as a first attempt and the recipient liked it, so I’ll definitely be having another go.

Cat x

What’s the alternative?

Now that Valentine’s Day is out of the way for another year (that makes me sound desperately unromantic which is very far from the truth) I am sure many people’s thoughts are starting to turn towards the marriage season.

There are lots of wonderful white/cream/ivory creations out there, but what if you don’t want to walk up any kind of aisle wearing a traditional wedding gown? What are the alternatives.

Wedding dress copyright N RodgersWell you could always be like the super talented Deborah Simms currently appearing in the Great British Sewing Bee who made this wonderful creation for herself. There’s no doubt that going down this route ensures that you end up with something that is bound indelibly with your own personality.

B9GDLriIEAAPjB1If stitching something this important gives you the heebie jeebies you could always enlist the help of a talented someone else. The wonderful Rachel Fox from Foxglove and Gingersnap makes truly one of a kind dresses using fabulous machine appliqué.

CaptureYou don’t have to look much further to find a wealth of alternatives. Joanne at The Couture Company has a veritable feast of goodies on offer, seemingly covering every style from steampunk to etheral twenties inspired gowns.

If meringue isn’t your style, the bridal shop on your high street brings you out in a cold sweat and you aren’t confident enough to have a go yourself, it looks like there are plenty of talented sewsistas out there who can create something exactly right for you.

Cat x

Move over Patrick…

10981862_274319482754365_2864875031387427584_nIt’s back!! Like chocolate at Christmas I now have six weeks of indulgence with the lovely Great British Sewing Bee to look forward to.

And what a treat it is turning out to be already.  There are some great characters beginning to emerge, but there is already a firm favourite among my sewsistas…  Whatever his sewing skills might turn out to be, we have already voted the lop02j7dvlvely Lieutenant Colonel into the final. Fortunately he did manage first place and garment of the week so we might just be onto a winner.

It’s great to see more men in the competition, and to see a wide range of sewers.  But we are completely bowled over by Neil’s ‘bish bash bosh’ approach to the task, his cool head and his attention to detail.  If he got a ribbing from his troops before GBSB then imagine what would happen if he won!

So sorry Patrick, we’re not watching you any more, our eyes are firmly on one of the contestants.

Cat x



Lilac_blouseIn the end Kitty and I watched all four episodes of the Great British Sewing Bee (her Dad very kindly recorded it for us so that he wouldn’t be forced to watch it himself!).

We were decidedly uninspired by the first episode… why include two men and then make all of the challenges to do with making or altering women’s clothing.  It was so unimaginative and I can’t pretend that we weren’t just a little bit disappointed.

However, by Episode 3 we were getting into it, rooting away for our two favourites Lauren and Ann.  There was something magnificent about the latter’s command of all things needlework, but we were rather fond of Lauren’s more modern execution of most of the tasks.  In the end the best woman won and let’s hope that I can still wield a needle with such precision in my eighties.

One positive aspect of watching the programme was that I was inspired to make a blouse for myself, something I haven’t done in years.  Every since a certain young man made a comment about my homemade clothing!  I used to make about 60% of my own clothes well into my twenties.  This is probably what contributes to my dislike of clothes shopping – nothing is more infuriating than spending hours trying to find something to wear which fits correctly, is well made and which doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

I chose a fairly simple pattern to get myself started, but have experimented with the fabric.  This is an organic cotton/bamboo mix which I bought from Raystitch – one of my favourite online shops.  It had it’s first outing today and I even got a couple of compliments.  Maybe I might just snitch that green fabric I bought to make Kitty a skirt…

Cat x